Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby slightbreeze » 20 Jul 2021, 20:31

Surprisingly, Nicky Hopkins, Tony Visconti and John Paul Jones all involved.

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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby Neil Jung » 21 Jul 2021, 08:55

Forever appears on the 1974 compilation By Choice.
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby C » 21 Jul 2021, 08:59

I love the Dragonfly album

Full of music

I love a bit of cello me




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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby slightbreeze » 21 Jul 2021, 14:46

Their last true folk album? Not a favourite of mine, it's too one paced for me. Opens with "Dreary Song", sorry "Weary song", and, although I , too, like the cello, not on every track, please

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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 21 Jul 2021, 20:24

Image

And here we have the groundbreaker, the first US release, the first full-flowering of Strawbs as a fully-fledged rock band, the first unqualified success. Arguably the record that, more than any other, launched them into the public eye as a force to be reckoned with.

Of course, because it's Strawbs, there's all kinds of caveats and irony involved. It's a live album, but one that's almost exclusively new songs. It's their big 'rock' debut, but it's still acoustic-based, and their new drummer doesn't play full kit on anything. And there was no single released from it, the only one of their A&M albums of which that is true.

Stand-up bassist Ron Chesterman is gone, with a full rhythm section and a virtuoso keyboardist in his place.

How did this all happen? It starts with Freakbeat heroes Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, source of the new rhythm section, Richard Hudson (who conveniently played a bit of sitar in addition to drums and an array of hand percussion) and John Ford (still one of my very favorite bass players).

It's hard to pick a standout, because this is the first one where pretty much every track is good, but I want to give special attention to a couple of them. One is "The Antique Suite," which takes up most of side one, their most successful epic yet. It's the full story of a life and death, and a reunion of an old relationship in the afterlife. It's somehow charming and touching rather than cheesy, which it could be in the wrong hands. It's proceeded by "Martin Luther King's Dream," which according to Cousins John Bonham told him was one of his favorite songs, and followed by "Temperament of Mind," a keyboard solo for Wakeman that's a predecessor to his live showcases in Yes.

Side two has more sensitive loveliness in "Fingertips" (his first song with truly blushworthy sexual frankness - positively influenced by his time with Leonard Cohen, perhaps?) and "Song of a Sad Little Girl," a song for Cousins' young daughter, prefaced by a lovely piano opening.

But the final song, the extended remake of "Where is This Dream of Your Youth" from the debut, is the fullest flowering of the new band.



Perhaps the oddest thing about this album is that it has a counterpart, released years later, that is almost identical (recorded at the same series of shows). Still a bit of a mystery why and how it happened, but it's a nice counterpart, and includes a few different tracks, including an amusing cover of the Shadows' "Let's Dance On."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recollect ... awbs_album)

In the end, despite keeping one foot in the 'acoustic' camp, it's the biggest transitional record of their career, still.

They could certainly be forgiven for assuming superstardom loomed around the corner. There was, of course, still a lot of oddness, missed chances, and complete rethinks of the band to come. But for part of 1970, at least, the future looked very bright indeed.
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby C » 22 Jul 2021, 19:20

toomanyhatz wrote:Side two has more sensitive loveliness in "Fingertips" (his first song with truly blushworthy sexual frankness - positively influenced by his time with Leonard Cohen, perhaps?) and "Song of a Sad Little Girl," a song for Cousins' young daughter, prefaced by a lovely piano opening.


The original vinyl piano intro was much shorter (over a minute I think)

I bought the album off my late schoolmate Johnny Winter - two days after its release - he didn't like it [he had a habit of doing that which suited me!]

When I heard the CD version for the first time I was ecstatic.

My favourite Strawbs album




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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 22 Jul 2021, 19:38

C wrote:[
My favourite Strawbs album




.



Probably still Grave New World for me (with an 'honorable mention' for Baroque & Roll for being such a great 'late career' surprise), but I'm realizing more and more this is probably #2. Really, every track is great. And it's probably the one that I still hear new things in decades later. It's a corker, for sure!
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby Hightea » 22 Jul 2021, 21:23

C wrote:
toomanyhatz wrote:

My favourite Strawbs album




.


I always claim my favorite is Ghosts but in truth over time Just a Collection of Antiques ,New World, Hero and Heroine, From the Witchwood all favorites

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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 22 Jul 2021, 23:13

Image

They were now, at least to some degree, stars. This, their first studio album as a full rock band - the only one for this particular band - is the first time they went into the studio more or less answerable only to themselves. They made the most of it.

I've gone back and forth on how I feel about this album. It might be the first one I ever heard. On some days it can be my favorite. But there are a couple spots where they're still finding their way. Wakeman's playing was so impressive, Yes came a-calling. Soon enough Hooper would depart too, leaving Cousins as the only original member. Hudson-Ford, as opposed to separate entities, would soon be a thing. So more than any other, it's a transitional album. Still finding their way, but destined to splinter almost immediately after finally locating it.

It opens with what is almost universally agreed to be one of their finest moments. A simple meditation on the beauty of a favored spot in the English countryside, with an utterly beguiling musical arrangement, featuring everything from celeste to a pub choir to Wakeman's dramatic organ, which does an impressive duet with Cousins' lightning bluegrass banjo in a thrilling musical moment, It all adds up to what is at least a contender for my favorite Strawbs song. For all the talk of Cousins' occasional overreaching ambition or overegged hysteria, he was just as capable of beautiful small moments like this - simple lilting melody, not a hair out of place, everyone (including Wakeman) playing judiciously and subtly. Can't say enough about it. At the moment it's sounding like the greatest thing ever.



The closer of side one and the opener of side two feature what I've come to think of as their two most 'controversial' songs, though maybe I only think that because I've had conflicting feelings about them.

I used to think "The Hangman and the Papist" was also a contender for their greatest work, and I still think it's a wonderful accomplishment. It might be my favorite playing ever for Wakeman. And in fact I'm going to take that one step further and say that Cousins was probably the perfect foil for Wakeman's skills - not Yes, not his own overegged solo stuff. No accident that he's chosen to work with Cousins quite a lot over the years. They may have a combative relationship, but they also both seem to know that they bring out the best in each other. Cousins says so in the book.

Anyway, I digress. As much as I like tH&tP, there is something that keeps me from fully embracing it, and same with "Sheep." Hearing years later that it was about 'The Troubles,' and that Cousins had changed it to a medieval setting ruined the song for me a bit. The theme has been used before, in a short story that I can't think of the name of at the moment. I'm still impressed by it, but it's lost some resonance for me down through the years. It feels a little overdramatic now.

I like and admire "Sheep," but it has always felt that way to me. On one hand it's impressively dark - Cousins actually sounds pretty punk rock spitting out lines like "look, they're turning back, they're frightened/dogs are snapping at their heals." But when it comes back down to earth, it comes too far down, and the last line- "he will harvest peace" - always seems like such a letdown, particularly from the guy who'd cynically sneer at hippies a few years later. It's a very tough, very direct song, but it wimps out in the end. And I can't honestly say I've ever found it pleasant listening.

I do unreservedly love these, however. The fullest flowering of Richard Hudson's Eastern influence:



and Cousins' first full-on electric guitar solo on record - quite well done, I think!:



So basically, I am finding flaws in this one that I used to not hear back when I was a young, idealistic Strawbs fan, but I still think it contains some of their best work. Just not as good as what came before or after. So their Sgt. Pepper, basically. :lol: :lol:
Footy wrote:
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby Mike Boom » 23 Jul 2021, 18:44

"From the Witchwood" was my gateway into the Strawbs, I love the title track especially.
I think my fave is still "Hero and Heroine", tho I enjoy them all thru to "Burning for You", "Ghosts" is especially good.

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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby C » 24 Jul 2021, 15:05

My second fave Strawbs album - absolutely superb!

Sheep is an incredible track

Wakeman is on fire - that solo!






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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby Neil Jung » 25 Jul 2021, 16:25

No idea how you managed to not even mention The Shepherd’s Song, imho easily the best song and performance on the album.
I don’t think it’s anything like as good as Grave New World which I’m playing on 49 year old vinyl as I type. Blue Weaver does a fine job on mellotron. The only weak spot is Ah Me Ah My.
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby C » 25 Jul 2021, 23:33

Neil Jung wrote:Grave New World


We'll get there lad

We will get there





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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 26 Jul 2021, 06:29

Image

C wrote:
Neil Jung wrote:Grave New World


We'll get there lad

We will get there





.


Indeed my esteemed friend. Indeed.

It's probably still my favorite. It's certainly the one, for those interested in such matters, that screams masterpiece, from the packaging to the production to what might be their best set of songs.

Wakeman is off to Yes, replaced by former Amen Corner and future Bee Gees keyboardist Blue Weaver, who does a pretty nice job of fitting in right away. Tony Hooper's role is reduced, though he does have a few vocal leads and one (by then rather ancient) original song. No surprise that he left right after, the ever-more-electric sound was not the ideal setting for his skills.

It's been referred to as a concept album, and it does have some narrative continuity to it, but hearing it as such is not necessary to enjoy it. But because it does hold together so well as a piece, this is the one that I'm going to go track-by-track.

Benedictus - Their first serious UK hit, it stalled right outside the top ten. According to Wikipedia, the line "where the paths of wisdom lead, distant is the shadow of the setting son" comes from the I-Ching, which Cousins was immersed in at the time. It's likely the only song with fuzz dulcimer ever to be played on the BBC. Also, Trevor Lucas (not yet married to Sandy Denny), is part of the chorus.

Hey, Little Man - Two short acoustic acoustic songs of adult advice to a child. Really nice, and breaks up the intensity of much of the rest.

Queen of Dreams - Despite being created in the 70s, this is a prime piece of English Psychedelia. Although Cousins later admitted that engineer Tom Allom (whose label credit would switch to 'producer' immediately afterwards) had a large production hand, this is a brilliant self-production - recorded in full and then the tape flipped, giving the rhythm acoustic guitars and Cousins' dulcimer a surreal quality, and featuring some of very forward bass playing from John Ford. It's really quite marvelous, another contender for my favorite Strawbs song.



Heavy Disguise - John Ford's best song for Strawbs? I think it's my vote. Tried first in a band version, all involved quickly realized it wasn't really working, so they married Ford's vocal and rhythm guitar with a great brass arrangement by Robert Kirby, till then best known for his expressionistic arrangements for Nick Drake, but destined to play a pretty huge role on the next several Strawbs albums.

New World - Another intense song about divided families and loyalties, again inspired by 'the troubles.' It's an intense experience, thanks in part to one of Cousins' most impassioned vocals. A reprise of "Hey, Little Man" (carrying a subtle anti-war message) helps take the edge off a bit.

The Flower and the Young Man - Though it's Cousins' song, this is Tony Hooper's last great Strawbs moment. Opening with a breathtaking a capella harmony and featuring one of his greatest lead vocals, accompanied mostly by Weaver's harmonium, it's a lovely meditation on the passage of time, and a nice throwback to the old Strawbs sound. Had Hooper stuck around, I could see more songs in this direction. But it was not to be.

Tomorrow - Strawbs' rep as a prog band may start with Wakeman, but it reaches full status here. A full-band co-write, the vitriolic opening lines ("You talked of me with acid tongue and pointed trembling spiteful hands") dedicated to Wakeman on his contentious exit from the band, A masterful performance by Hudson and (particularly) Ford, with a riff that sounds very much based on a movement from Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony, it's a dynamic and dramatic arrangement, but also intense and direct like Cousins at his best. Once again, highly acclaimed by Strawbs fans, and one of my very favorites.



The Britten movement for comparison. I've never heard Ford (whose bass melody the riff grows out of) or Cousins admit to it, but it seems pretty obvious to me:



On Growing Older - Most of the songs on side two are concerned with aging, this one most obviously so. An older song - Cousins was obviously meditating on his own mortality already in his 20s - it's also a lovely throwback to their older sound, with wonderfully crisp acoustic rhythm guitar.

Ah Me, Ah My -
Neil Jung wrote:The only weak spot is Ah Me Ah My.
Well, can't disagree too strenuously, but it is a bit of whimsy to take the edge off the intensity elsewhere - the album's "When I'm 64," if you will. The last Hooper original performed by Strawbs, it was originally recorded (one of the rejected songs) for the debut. The brass arrangement is by Tony Visconti. It's short. I don't mind it.

Is It Today, Lord - Another meditation on mortality, this one by Richard Hudson, with what is likely his best sitar playing. Another that, had it been released a few years earlier, might have made some of those "great British psychedelia" comps.

The Journey's End - Nice echoed piano and a sensitive Cousins vocal ends the story on a down note.

It only reached the lowest rungs of the US album charts, but it was their first major success in the UK, making it up to #12.

Having spent a couple years on the verge of stardom, they were now one of the biggest bands in the UK. It would get even bigger - and even stranger, with many changes yet to come - soon enough.
Footy wrote:
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 26 Jul 2021, 18:10

Tony Hooper's last Strawbs performance (at least until the reunions):



And what might be Lambert's first recording with Dave Cousins (depending on whether this was recorded before or after Cousins' solo album Two Weeks Last Summer, about which more later (I can't seem to find a definitive source as to when it was done, other than that it was sometime in 1972):

Footy wrote:
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 26 Jul 2021, 20:24

Image

Finally Strawbs were big enough for Cousins to be given a decent budget for the purpose of recording a solo album. Although it started as a sort of 'vacation' from Strawbs (hence the title), it's got a lot of similarities, the songs include many that would grace past or future Strawbs albums, and with multiple performances by Dave Lambert, is pretty much the entry point of the 'new band', for which Lambert would replace the departing Hooper (the last folkie standing).

The main band, however, is composed of a very impressive group of musicians, none of whom would go on to join Strawbs. And no offense to those that did, but I don't think he was ever backed by more sheer power. Just listen to this track, with some amazing soloing by Savoy Brown's Miller Anderson (also the lead guitarist on The Voice's "Train to Disaster," one of the wildest slices of freakbeat ever), Deep Purple's Roger Glover bassing with the thickness of Ford and the mobility of Cronk, and the powerhouse drumming of Colosseum's Jon Hiseman. Lambert's on it too - I suspect that low Lennonesque guitar that comes in at the end is him. It's also one hell of a singing performance by Cousins ("while the actor lies down naked on his bed of glowing COOOAALLLS"):



Old Strawbs standard "We'll Meet Again Sometime" gets a revisit, this album's 'epic', "Blue Angel," would be a future Strawbs classic, but in this guise it features the return of...Rick Wakeman, playing wonderfully as if he'd never left. Cousins couldn't have been too mad...

There's also this, originally recorded as a potential Dave Lambert single, and credited here to "Lampoon," which I have always assumed was Lambert's nickname. It rocks:



There are a few sweet acoustic number too, and in "October to May," a lovely bit of acapella harmony. But Cousins the folkie was drifting further and further into the rear-view mirror. Cousins the rock star would soon take over.
Footy wrote:
The Who / Jimi Hendrix Experience Saville Theatre, London Jan '67
. Got Jimi's autograph after the show and went on to see him several times that year


1959 1963 1965 1966 1974 1977 1978 1981 1988 2017* 2018 2020!! 2021?

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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 26 Jul 2021, 20:29

Also worth noting - first Strawbs-related album cover to prominently feature a dog. It would be far from the last. :lol:
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby toomanyhatz » 28 Jul 2021, 00:44

Zero responses on Grave New World? I'd think we'd have some opinions...
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby Neige » 28 Jul 2021, 08:18

I'm trying to keep up... :P

My favourites have always been Antiques and Curious and Witchwood, but you made me rediscover Cousins' solo album... very robust indeed.
Grave New World never grabbed me as much, maybe because I like Wakeman's classical leanings and show-off bits more, but I'll give it a spin.

As a side note: are you familiar with the two BBC releases from 2010? I always found Cousins nasal whine a bit hard-going, but some of his vocals there sound also totally out of tune. So bad in fact that it has put me right off him, I haven't listened to any Strawbs since, save the two albums mentioned or the odd track in the prog cups. :oops:
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Re: Strawbs & the Many Lives of Dave Cousins

Postby Mike Boom » 28 Jul 2021, 17:07

Great write up hatz , pretty much agree with you on everything, its a great album indeed, "Queen of Dreams" is definitely a highlight, "New World" is indeed intense (...may you rot...) and Tomorrow with great Blue Weaver organ is a true epic. I have no problems at all with Cousins voice, far from it , I think he's a brilliant singer. The album is a great mix of heavier tracks and more acoustic interludes and the whole thing ends beautifully with the short and sweet "Journeys End".

"Two Weeks Last Summer" I have but need to take another listen.